Ask any young person, even in developing countries, what she or he thinks about agriculture and you will get the same answer: agriculture is not for me!
These young, ambitious people have never looked at agriculture as a source of income and livelihoods. It is hard to involve them in activities related to agriculture because they think it is meant for the old and does not make a good living. Even if they did want to enter into the profession, they would not have access to the land they need. These young people are instead dreaming of going to cities and towns and landing a big job, leaving the elderly to tend to crops. Yet Africa has the highest number of youth in the whole world, and some of the most fertile soils – the two combined could be a force to promote agricultural development!
What must be done?
To change these perceptions, there is a need for more awareness to be created among young people about the benefits of agriculture as a career.
New technologies such as mobile devices have improved communications, and because young people like mobile gadgets agricultural information can be disseminated through these devices to the youth. This information must packaged in a way that is attractive to the youth. Youth need to be exposed to examples where their fellow young people are making money out of agriculture. Soft loans can be provided to youth who come up with innovative proposals in agriculture, and agriculture as a business should be included in school curricula. Furthermore, youth need to learn to use other Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) such as computers because this channel can be used to communicate useful agricultural information.
Farm produce needs to get to markets and bring revenues to be attractive to the youth. ICTs such as smart phones, and computers with internet can greatly reduce the cost of business if they are used to link young farmers to available markets even locally, reducing the barrier of long distances. ICTs such as radios can also be used to share new innovations in agriculture such as research findings that improve agricultural production.
Most youth have limited access to land which makes it very difficult to get involved in agriculture. Because they don’t have land, they also lack collateral to finance loans. Getting started in agriculture is almost an impossibility without these assets.
Young women have even less of an opportunity to start a business in the agricultural sector; in local meetings aimed at development, it is usually young men that participate, while women attend to siblings or home chores. This lack of information and participation at critical decision making fora puts young women at a disadvantage. As the future mothers of the community and major contributors to productivity at the village level, they need to actively participate in such events.
In conclusion, youth should speak up and tell the government to include them in decision-making for agriculture policies. Furthermore, the African governments should invest in youth to encourage them get involved in agriculture.
Blogpost by Margaret Bulamu, a social media reporter for AASW6.
Photo: N. Palmer (CIAT)